Thursday, December 24, 2009

Piney

From Sam Sifton's Wednesday's review of La Grenouille, in the Times:

Accompanied by a small bit of demi-glace made piney with rosemary, they provide an instant view of a world in which plenty is not nearly so important as quality — a world in which the point is to experience small, rich pleasures, one by one by one.

Why the word is in the list: for one, this appearance unhinges piney from an exclusive association with the scent of pine trees. I like pine trees, all for the alpine, but the word piney has been associated with, for example, Pine-Sol for too long.

For another (reason): La Grenouille must be one of the three New Yorkiest restaurants in New York, partly for the reasons Sifton describes and partly because it offers two ambiances. The first floor feels jaunty and glam all around. Word-wise, by a hyperbolist, it might be described as tremendous. The second floor, which long ago was the artist's studio, more recently became a room for private parties. One winter, in the pre-private days, I ate dinner up there. It was like eating a meal to the tenth power, the ambiance was so charged (dreamy, romantic, lush). When the markets align again (if the markets align again), the second floor may return to its un-private state. In short, La Grenouille encloses Manhattan's two best sides in one restaurant, and being in town as long as it has, it has its bona fides.

Finally, Sifton uses the word bathmat (albeit in hyphenated form) in association with the word flounder, which reminded this reader of his days at The New York Press and so the fact of The Press at all. Those gritty front-page squibs--which had a touch of MAD Magazine and anticipated The Onion--the Press were part of my weekly intake.

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